Nation's No. 1 Pitching Staff Flexes Muscle as No. 8 Tritons Take Series Opener in Turlock, 5-1
TURLOCK, Calif. - The No. 8 University of California San Diego scored twice in the first through its first four batters and had two arms in control all night, earning a 5-1 win over Stanislaus State Saturday at Warrior Baseball Field.
With the result, UC San Diego improves to 21-5 overall and 16-5 in the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA). Combined with San Francisco State's doubleheader split in San Bernardino, the Tritons now hold a 1.5-game lead at the top of the standings. The Gators had lost their series opener on Friday. Stan State dropped to 20-13 overall and 16-11 in the CCAA. The four-game series shifted due to weather concerns from Friday night through Sunday, to Saturday night through Monday.
UC San Diego began the day with the second-best team earned run average in all of Division II, and ended it at No. 1 with a 2.55 ERA, flip-flopping with Delta State (2.63), which allowed 10 earned runs during a doubleheader split.
From that top-ranked staff, junior right-hander Ted Stuka took the ball from head coach Eric Newman for his second start, and delivered. The Newport Beach product fired the first five complete innings, surrendering just a leadoff home run in the second inning among three hits, and a solitary walk. He struck out three. Stuka has now picked up the winning decision in five consecutive outings, moving to 5-1.
Junior right-hander Luke Mattson handled the final four frames and earned his first save as a Triton at the end of his first relief appearance. He leads the team with seven starting assignments. The Orange native gave up two singles and a ninth-inning walk, striking out five.
UC San Diego jumped right on top of the Warriors out of the gate. Sophomore shortstop Shay Whitcomb lined a leadoff double just over the third base bag and into the left field corner on a 2-2 pitch. Redshirt senior third baseman Alex Eliopulos (La Jolla/La Jolla HS) and redshirt sophomore first baseman Blake Baumgartner then drew back-to-back walks from senior right-hander Chase Wheatcroft (2-2). Redshirt sophomore catcher Aaron Kim cashed that scenario in by roping a two-run double into the gap in left center with a 1-2 offering, for a quick 2-0 edge.
The Tritons added single runs in the second, third and seventh. Designated hitter Michael Fuhrman opened the second with a single through the left side. Second baseman Vinny Margiotta then threw the ball wide of his shortstop on what would have been a fielder's choice groundout, leaving Tritons at first and second. Another fielder's choice groundout put men at the corners, with Eliopulos picking up Fuhrman via right-sided RBI groundout and the unearned tally.
In the third, R.J. Prince produced a bunt single for openers, as the Triton leadoff man reached in each of the first five innings. Wheatcroft's first of two errors on the night, on a failed pickoff, allowed the senior rightfielder to scurry all the way to third with nobody out. After a walk to Ryan McNally, fellow true freshman Fuhrman came through again, lifting his first collegiate sacrifice fly to center for 4-1.
Whitcomb provided the capper, again with Fuhrman involved in the seventh through a one-out infield single to the right side. Whitcomb continued his torrid hitting by belting a two-out, RBI double off the wall in straightaway center for a 5-1 final, once again on a 2-2 pitch. It gave the Newbury Park native a team-leading 13 doubles.
UC San Diego had several opportunities to make the game much more comfortable for itself. The Tritons still had second and third with one gone in the first, and even loaded the bags with no outs in the fourth, with no scores added.
Whitcomb wound up 3-for-6 with the two doubles, run and RBI. Fuhrman went 2-for-4 with the sacrifice fly, two runs and one RBI, while Prince was an identical 2-for-4 and scored a run. Kim wound up 1-for-3 with a double, walk, hit-by-pitch and two RBI. Eliopulos was 1-for-3 with a double, two walks, run and RBI. Baumgartner walked three times to increase his team-leading season total to 31, third in the CCAA.
Alexis Paz accounted for the lone Warrior run with his fourth home run opening the second, tying for his team's lead. It traveled just inside the left field line, and was just the third home run hit against UC San Diego pitching in 2019, and first on the road. The other two have been surrendered by Mattson at Triton Ballpark.
Stuka made an incredible defensive play to begin the third, sprinting toward first base to corral a bunt by speedy leadoff man Braeden Oki with his glove and flipping with it in one motion, low to Baumgartner on the bag, who made the tough pickup.
Stuka set Stan State down in order in the first and fourth. After the Paz home run, he ran into further trouble as the next two hitters generated a four-pitch walk and single. On Jayce Gardner's ensuing comebacker, Stuka almost threw to second, but decided smartly at the last second that he wasn't going to be in time, and instead spun and fired to Baumgartner for the first out, with two Warriors now in scoring position. Matt Elser was then no match, going down swinging on four pitches, and Stuka got Grant Victor to fly out.
Mattson gave up a single to his first batter to begin the sixth, but registered outs on the next eight Warriors, including a perfect seventh with two swinging strikeouts ahead of an easy groundout to Eliopulos.
UC San Diego and Stanislaus State continue their series with a doubleheader on Sunday, April 7. First pitch at Warrior Baseball Field in Turlock is set for 1 p.m., with the nightcap scheduled for a shortened seven innings.
Triton Notes: UC San Diego leads the all-time series, 52-28, including 52-21 since joining the CCAA for the 2001 campaign ... The Tritons are 27-9 against the Warriors in Turlock ... UC San Diego has now won eight straight meetings with Stan State ... Alex Eliopulos started his 102nd straight game, all at third base ... Michael Fuhrman earned his third start, all as the designated hitter ... Ted Stuka drew his second mound start of 2019 and of his college career ... Over his last five outings, Stuka is 5-0 with a 1.00 ERA, 20 hits against, 29 strikeouts and seven walks ... Over his last nine games, Shay Whitcomb has hit two doubles in four of them and two home runs in two others ... Whitcomb now has five two-double games for his college career, and four this year, all coming over the last nine contests ... Freshman second baseman Ryan McNally's third-inning walk extended his reached-base streak to 13 games, tied for the team's longest this year ... Aaron Kim's two-run double pushed him over the 20-RBI mark, now at 21 ... UC San Diego is 4-2 on the road ... The Tritons have now outscored opponents 76-27 in the first three innings, and are a perfect 20-0 when managing three or more runs in a contest in 2019.
About UC San Diego Athletics
With 30 national team championships, nearly 150 individual titles and the top student-athlete graduation rate among Division II institutions in the United States, the UC San Diego intercollegiate athletics program annually ranks as one of the most successful in the country. The Tritons sponsor 23 intercollegiate sport programs that compete on the NCAA Division I and II levels and, in summer 2020, will transition into full Division I status as a member of the Big West Conference. UC San Diego student-athletes exemplify the academic ideals of one of the world's preeminent institutions, graduating at an average rate of 91 percent. A total of 80 Tritons have earned Academic All-America honors, while 36 have earned prestigious NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships. In competition, more than 1,300 UC San Diego student-athletes have earned All-America honors.
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